COME TO LONG WHARF TO MEET “SMART PEOPLE”

BONNIE GOLDBERG

In “South Pacific,” there is a poignant song “You’ve Gp to Be Carefully Taught,” about prejudice, to be afraid of “people whose eyes are oddly made{ or {people whose skin is a different shade,” From parent to child, these biases are handed down and are learned at a relative’s knee. The issues of racial bias are being probed, prodded and punctured in Lydia Diamond’s complicated conversation “Smart People” at Sage II of Long Wharf Theatre in New Haven until Sunday, April 9 and you’re invited to voice your support or opposition.

Take four intelligent adults living and working in the Harvard area of Cambridge and have them intersect and interact on sensitive issues and explosions of opinions are likely to erupt. Barack Obama is about to be inaugurated, a landmark occasion worthy of note. What reactions will that event stir in a college professor Brian (Peter O’Connor) who is a neuroscientist engrossed in a study of how theĀ  brain responds to racism, Ginny (Ka-Ling Cheung) an Asian-American psychiatrist who is trying to help low income females who are also Asian-American deal with stress, Jackson (Sullivan Jones) an open-minded young doctor who volunteers at a clinic to aid people with insufficient funds and Valerie (Tiffany Nicole Greene) a struggling actress who becomes a maid so she doesn’t have to abandon her dreams.

As each strives to attain a level of self-awareness, they continue to hit walls of conflict with themselves and each other. Just because they are paired off and sleeping together, it doesn’t mean they can avoid the outfalls that even “smart people” should be able to prevent.

As a member of academia, Brian puts his career on the line when he proposes that white people have an implicit bias and are biologically racist and assets he has brain waves to prove it. On that platform, Brian engages with his intimate circle of friends and with the world of academia to probe this lack of connection. The others are strongly opinionated and trade words in an effort to reach understanding. Desdemona Chiang directs this fast-paced conversation where the dialogue is intense, earnest and incendiary.

For tickets ($29 and up), call Long Wharf Theatre, 222 Sargent Drive, New Haven at 203-787-4282 or online at www.longwharf.org. Performances are Tuesday at 7 p.m., Wednesday at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m., Thursday at 8 p.m., Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 3 p.m. and 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m.

For an intelligent ping-pong game where diversity is clearly the ball in question, follow the shots that boomerang back and forth in this verbal match among four players, all ”smart people."

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